A birth plan is a lot more popular in the US rather than the UK, here in the UK we are recommended to have a think about some of the basics regarding skin to skin, cord clamping and pain relief.
Giving birth is an unpredictable event so it’s quite hard to have a birth plan and stick to it, but it is worth having an idea of what you might like.
Pregnancy is a really exciting time, speaking from personal experience (38 weeks) but it gives you so many things you need to prepare for. The labour itself surprisingly might not be something that is top of your list, but once you reach around 30 weeks how you want your labour and your birth to go will start to creep into your mind.
Once you know the sex at 20 weeks, you can start shopping for clothes, bedding, nursery paint, and accessories, but it’s important to start thinking about what you want to happen in the delivery room once you reach 40 weeks.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan gives an idea of what you would like to happen from the early stages of labour up until you have delivered your baby. This plan is to let the professionals know what you would like in advance as you may not be totally comprehensible when you arrive at the hospital if you are in the early stages of labour.
It does not have to be a huge document or guide, it can just be a few points to let your midwife know what you want.
Tips for writing a birth plan
Probably the most important thing you need to do is research, to find out what is out there, what is available and then deciding what you do and don’t want. It may seem like a scary concept of having to think about D-Day but it helps you if you are prepared and well informed.
The first thing to decide is who you want there. In the UK you are only allowed two people in the labour room, bear in mind that if there are some minor complications which could lead to forceps or ventouse delivery do you want these people to remain or leave the room?
If you do need an emergency caesarean section do you want your partner in with you? This information is vital in the birth plan.
You may need or choose to stay overnight following the birth, do find out if your partner is allowed to stay. In the UK, if you are lucky enough to get a private room, your husband/partner will be allowed to stay with you.
Depending on the hospital, your partner may be allowed to stay in the ward with you. A great website to find out about your local hospital is: https://www.which.co.uk/birth-choice/where-to-give-birth
Your next thing to consider is where you want to give birth, in a hospital or at home. You should consider where you are likely to feel more comfortable but also the facilities available if there are any complications. Many first time mums choose a hospital as it’s their first, but will go to have home births in the future.
Possibly the most important thing on your mind is pain relief, what you do and don’t want. Your options for your pain relief could determine where you can give birth. Gas and air is a common option and is available both in the hospital and for a home birth.
An epidural would only be available in the hospital.
Something you may not have thought about is the atmosphere you want in the room during labour and birth. You will want to consider the following when you are researching:
- A birth pool.
- The ability to control music and noise in the room.
- Ability to adjust the lighting in the room.
- The number of people in the room (this will depend on the room).
- Aromatherapy options.
- The freedom of movement in the room (a lot of midwives recommend moving around as opposed to sitting on the bed).
- Certain pieces of furniture (such as a birthing ball and mat).
As mentioned above, the ability to move around is something important to consider because it can help with the speed of the labour and can help with relieving pain. A birthing ball is really useful to help keep you sitting upright and the movement you make on the ball can help get the baby in the correct position.
It’s important to consider that if you wanted an epidural you have to think about how this will affect your movement.
Foetal monitoring is done when there may be some concerns with the baby in the run-up to labour, this can only be done in a labour ward so this could completely affect your birth plan.
Finally, you want to think about the position you want to be in when you deliver the baby, consider the following positions:
- On all fours
- Leaning on a birthing stool or bed
- Lying on your side
- Sitting up
It’s worth practising some of these positions before labour to see what is comfortable for you.
Placenta delivery is something important to consider because it determines whether you let the placenta delivery naturally or if you are given an injection to help deliver it quicker. Hospitals will often opt for active management of the delivery, which is the injection method unless you specifically give them a preference.
Delayed clamping is something the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends and they say between one to three minutes after birth. This is again something you can determine, many like to wait until the placenta has stopped pulsating because this allows the baby to receive the maximum amount of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood that comes from the placenta.
Skin to skin contact is when the baby is put straight onto your chest and it’s a fantastic way to bond with your baby. This contact can also help with breast milk coming in. This can be a little more difficult if you need a c section but midwives and hospitals understand the importance of skin to skin so will always try to get the baby to you as soon as possible.
Breastfeeding is something that is seen as beautiful and natural and whilst we all wish it would come naturally, it doesn’t always for some. In your birth plan, you may want to include whether you want to breastfeed straight away and whether you are happy for them to receive formula, bottled water or glucose water.
Vitamin K injection is given to newborns to reduce the likelihood of a bleeding disorder. If you decide you don’t want your baby having this, you can specify this in your birth plan and it can be given as an oral supplement.
A lot to consider but even just researching the above will help you decide what you do and don’t want, and even if you don’t write it down, and just tell your birthing partner who can communicate this to your midwife.
By Holly W.